The World Health Organization said on Friday that the spread of omicrons was caused by a number of factors, including the make-up of the COVID-19 variant and an increase in social mixing.
That’s why people need to think about reducing exposure to the virus and controlling its transmission, a week after the record number of new cases, said Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical chief.
Van Kerkhove said that Omicron circulates very efficiently between people for a number of reasons.
First, its mutations allow the virus to more easily adhere to human cells.
“Second, it is said that we have immunity. And that means people can be reinfected either … if they had a previous infection or if they were vaccinated,” She said in comments broadcast by WHO.
“The second reason is that we are seeing replication of omicron in the upper respiratory tract – and this is different from delta and other types, including the parenteral strain, which is replicated in the lower respiratory tract in the lungs.”
But apart from these factors, the spread of the virus was also being attributed to people being over-mixed, spending more time indoors in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and non-compliance with measures such as physical distancing.
Last week the WHO reported 9.5 million new Covid-19 cases – a record, up 71 percent from a week earlier.
“General public, the only thing you need to worry about is the reduction in exposure to the virus,” Van Kerkhove said.
“We want people to understand and feel empowered that they have some control over the infection.”
He also said that there was “sufficient reason” to prevent becoming infected with the disease in the first place, to avoid developing ongoing prolonged COVID symptoms.